SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Matt Ryan won the MVP and led the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second full season in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Matt Schaub led the NFL in yards passing in year two with Shanahan as his coordinator.
Jimmy Garoppolo is looking to have similar success in his second full season as the starting quarterback for Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers.
“I can’t put my finger on anything specific,” Garoppolo said on why quarterbacks have thrived in a second season with Shanahan.
“I think it’s more of just the understanding of how everything ties together with the run, the pass. Trying to make everything look the same but different at the same time. I think that’s the magic of the offense. Kyle does a great job with that, thinking a couple of plays ahead and putting you in a good situation. I think when we’re thinking the same way and we’re on the same page, that’s when we’re really clicking.”
The 49ers clicked pretty well last year in the first full season with Garoppolo playing for Shanahan. Garoppolo had put together an impressive five-game run at the end of 2017 after being acquired in a midseason trade from New England and then only got to play three games the following season before a knee injury.
He threw for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, helping the Niners win 13 games thanks to four fourth-quarter comebacks and ranked second in the NFL with an average of 29.9 points per game.
The Niners hope for even more production this season after Garoppolo didn’t have to spend the offseason rehabilitating from the knee injury.
“I think you can definitely tell that he’s got that extra year under his belt now,” receiver Trent Taylor said. “I believe he’s going to continue to grow throughout his whole career. He’s definitely slowly getting better and better each year. First couple of days of real work so far. We’ll see how far we can actually grow throughout this training camp and continue to improve throughout the season.”
The Niners thrived last season behind a stellar defense, elaborate running game and accurate, short passes that turned into big plays.
Garoppolo often didn’t have to do too much as evidenced by the eight passes he threw in the NFC championship game win over the Green Bay Packers.
Garoppolo had the highest percentage of his yards passing come after the catch last season when he also had the fewest deep passes of any starting quarterback.
Garoppolo was efficient when he did throw deep, completing an NFL-best 61.3% of them last year. He’s taken several deep shots early in training camp.
“When you get an opportunity that the defense allows you to go deep, that we don’t miss it and take it,” Shanahan said. “We want that opportunity every time. Defenses rarely give you that opportunity, especially our defense. They’ve usually got a guy pretty deep in the middle of the field, so you don’t get many of those shots. You don’t just call a play that says go deep, except at the end of a half or a game, it’s called a Hail Mary. You usually have a deep guy on most of your plays, but it depends what the defense gives you.”
It was one missed deep pass that ended up defining Garoppolo’s season in 2019. Garoppolo completed 18 of his first 21 passes in a nearly three-plus quarters in the Super Bowl, staking the Niners to a 20-10 lead over Kansas City.
But he went just 2 for 10 down the stretch with the biggest missing coming on an overthrown deep shot to Emmanuel Sanders with San Francisco trailing 24-20.
Garoppolo was sacked on the next play to turn the ball over on downs and Kansas City put the game away with a 38-yard TD run by Damien Williams.
That led to speculation that the Niners might pursue Tom Brady in the offseason. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said they considered it before deciding sticking with Garoppolo was the best option.
“I think when all that was going on, you hear about it and things like that, but I really wasn’t too worried,” Garoppolo said. “I’m always confident in my play and I know what I put out there this season and everything like that. So, it’s all about being confident and it’s just part of the business. I’ve seen both sides of it, so I’ve been there.”
NOTES: C Ben Garland left practice with an ankle injury. … DL Arik Armstead (back), CB K’Waun Williams (calf) remain sidelined but Armstead could return Thursday. … TE Jordan Reed is still working his way back after missing last season following a concussion in the preseason.
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